Friday, August 18, 2006

Almost worth violating the blackface ceasefire

Tonight I watched The News Hour. Friday is of course pundit day, which always spikes my blood pressure. Anyway, Bobo must have been on vacation, because Mark Shields' wingnut counterpart tonight was Ramesh Ponnuru. And the timing could not have been better, because one of the topics was George Allen's macaca moment.

Had Brooks been there, I would have expected him to pooh-pooh the whole thing and sweep the inconvenient truths under the rug. But Ponnuru is of Indian descent. Despite (or perhaps because of) his Republican social life, there is simply no friggin' way he has made it from his childhood in Kansas City to his current lofty perch without hearing a few racial slurs aimed his way. I know that I have a visceral reaction when I am the target of any anti-Semitism, or even witness its expression. And if Mahatma Ghandi or Dr. King or Howard Dean called somebody a kike, I would condemn him.

The shameful dissembling of the mainstream coverage to the contrary, there can be absolutely no doubt that Allen said what he meant and meant what he said. Macaca is a dog-whistle N-word, well understood among the white sheet crowd. Allen's mother grew up in French Tunisia -- ground zero for this exact slur.

So when Margret Warner asked Mr. "Party of Death" whether one of his Republican homies is the kind of racist asshole who embodies the reason self-respecting, non-prostitute-ish people of color stay the hell away from the Republican party, did Ponnuru give voice to his inner human?

Of course not -- he is a Republican uber alles. Eager to affirm his subservience, Ramesh showed us his best Steppin Fetchit:
And, Ramesh, the blogosphere went wild over this. Legitimately so?

RAMESH PONNURU: Well, I think so. You know, partly it's because George Allen is considered a presidential hopeful for 2008, and partly because of just the weirdness of the entire incident and the fact that it was captured on tape. I mean, Indian-Americans, we've really been taking it on the chin from senators lately, between Joe Biden talking about the 7-Elevens, and Hillary Clinton about Gandhi having run a gas station. I don't know what it is with the senators these days.

MARGARET WARNER: So do you think it was a racist remark?

RAMESH PONNURU: I think at the very least it indicates a certain lack of political judgment on the part of George Allen and a certain kind of vindictiveness. To go after a 20-year-old, you know, who's working for the other campaign, just it makes you wonder whether this guy is really ready for primetime.
Warner gave him two chances to distance himself from Allen's indisputably racist outburst. Twice he declined. And notice how Ramesh tries to to make the story about two Democratic Senators. Calling a fellow Republican a racist could lead to a dangerous drop in the willingness of said racists to ask him to join in their reindeer games. Thus the rhetorical shuck and jive about "political judgment."

It is difficult to feel pity for a man so willing to sell his soul.


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